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November 19 2013

PHOTOS: Voters Turn Out in Droves for Nepal's Constituent Assembly Elections

Voters queuing outside a polling station in Kirtipur, Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo by anuj arora, copyright  Demotix (19/11/2013)

Voters queuing outside a polling station in Kirtipur, Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo by anuj arora. Copyright Demotix (19/11/2013)

Nepal went to the polls today, November 19, 2013, to vote for a second Constituent Assembly, which will be charged with writing the constitution for the nation's governance.

Despite reports of sporadic incidents of violence and concerted efforts by the dissident Communist Party of Nepal–Maoist (CPN-M) cadres throughout the country to disrupt the election process and implement their call for poll boycott (bandha) during the election period, voters in Nepal were enthusiastic and queued at polling centres in large numbers to cast their votes.

The administration, for its part, tried to ensure tight security on the election day. According to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nilkantha Uprety, the voter turnout was estimated to be a record 70 percent

Security personal patrolling Kathmandu city. Photo by  gagan_thapa thapa, copyright Demotix (19/11/2013)

Security personal patrolling Kathmandu city on election day in Nepal. Photo by gagan_thapa thapa. Copyright Demotix (19/11/2013)

Interestingly, there was a lot of participation by women voters, who turned out in large numbers to vote. Kashish Das Shrestha (@kashishds), a Kathmandu- and New York-based journalist, tweeted:

There was also a lot of enthusiasm among the elderly to cast their votes, many of them being septuagenarians and above. 110-year-old Dhan Kumari Gurung cast her vote in Sundaridanda polling centre of Kaski district.

From Lalitpur, Nepal, research scientist Sameer Mani Dixit (@sameermdixit) tweeted:

An elderly woman is assisted by her grandson as he carries from a voting centre after casting her vote in the second Constitution Assembly Election. Photo by Nabin Baral

An elderly woman being carried by her grandson from a voting centre after casting her vote in the second Constitution Assembly election. Photo by Nabin Baral. Copyright Demotix (19/11/2013)

Throughout the country, not only was the turnout at the polling centres encouraging, but people also expressed happiness in being able to vote and hoped that this election would deliver where the last one failed.

The first Constituent Assembly was formed in 2008, two years after a bloody decade-long civil war between the country's Maoists and government came to an end. Nepal's monarchy was abolished shortly afterward, but the assembly failed to write a constitution, and after four years it was dissolved, plunging the diverse country into political crisis. 

Nishchal Dhakal (@nishchaldhakal), a doctor based in Kathmandu, tweeted:

Sydney Based Nepalese Journalist Rishi Acharya (@rishiacharya) tweeted:

Encouraging number of female candidates

The fate of 6,128 candidates in the First Past the Post (FPTP) and around 10,700 Proportional Representative (PR) categories will be decided today. As reported by nepalvotes.com, 127 political parties are in the fray with 12,147,865 eligible voters. Out of the 6,128 FPTP candidates, 667 -or 10.88 percent- are female, and out of the 10,709 PR candidates, 5,291 candidates are female, reported setopati.com.

AFP Iraq Bureau Chief Prashant Rao (@prashantrao) tweeted an infographic on Nepal's voters: 

Confusing symbols

While voters were busy casting their precious votes, they were likely to get confused by the election symbols which are similar if not taken carefully, reported Nepaliheadlines.

Proportional representation ballot paper featuring more than 100 parties. Photo by anuj arora, copyright Demotix (19/11/2013)

Proportional representation ballot paper featuring more than 100 parties. Photo by anuj arora. Copyright Demotix (19/11/2013)

UCPN-Maoist's election symbol is a sickle and hammer inside a circle, while CPN-ML and CPN-United's symbols are sickle and a star, and sickle respectively. Likewise, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum's election symbol is two hands poised for a Namaste, while Nepal Sadbhawana Party's symbol is a hand and Nepal Shanti Chhetra Parishad's symbol is two hands clapping.

Rashtriya Prajatantra Party Nepal's symbol is a cow. However, Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party's symbol is oxen and the symbol of Janatantrik Terai Madhes Mukti Tigers is oxen with cart.

More confusing are the symbols of Nepal Loktantrik Samajwadi Dal, Janata Party Nepal, Terai Madhes Pahad Himal Ekata Party and Jana Unity Cooperative Party Nepal. They are a pen, a pen and an inkpot, a pencil, and a pen and a copy respectively.

Similar is the case of party symbols of Rashtrawadi Janata Party, Rashtriya Yatharthawadi Party Nepal, Nepal Samabeshi Party and Rashtrawadi Ekata Party. They are a bird, the national bird danfe, a parrot, and a pigeon.

Interesting candidates

While the political parties are competing with each other in the electoral constituencies, the candidates of Bibeksheel Party (Sensible Party) are in the fray along with the political bigwigs in the four major constituencies of Kathmandu. Interestingly, they have selected a dog (Kukur in Nepali) as their election symbol.

According to The Kathmandu Post, “all of the four candidates from Bibeksheel hail from impressive entrepreneurial and educational backgrounds”. It is a tech-savvy group that has been making wide use of social media to engage the people, especially youth. In the past, the Bibeksheel group has played active role in organizing popular social campaigns like Occupy Baluwatar (a peaceful protest movement calling on the Nepali state to better address the widespread problem of impunity and gender-based violence), Entrepreneurs for Nepal, Nepal Unites and Die Banda Die (to end the ‘bandh’ or shutdown culture in Nepal) etc.

For the elections, the one-year-old Bibeksheel party used many innovative campaigning techniques, smileys, rickshaws with flags and of course a lot of social media. There has been a lot of discussion about this group online, but it remains to be seen if these would have an actual impact on the voters and translated into votes.

Blogger Nepalikukur wrote in the online magazine La.Lit. that voting for the kukur (dog) symbol would be akin to registering a protest vote, but that it could also mark the beginning of a “genuine party of the people”.

Nepalis have given chances to Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist each to rule the country. However, none of them have been successful in satisfying the expectations of general public. This time round, the Nepalis hope to elect a stable government who can draft a constitution and lead the country to prosperity.

Now begins the wait for the winners and, more importantly, the constitution.

September 20 2011

Nepal: Bloggers Share Their Own Stories of Earthquake

On the Sunday evening of September 18, 2011, Nepal experienced a strong earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale. With an epicentre in the border region of Taplejung of Nepal and Sikkim of India, it affected Kathmandu, Pokhara, Dharan and other parts of Nepal. Some of the country's bloggers have shared their own stories, news and live events following the quake.

The Home Ministry in Nepal has reported 9 deaths and 24 serious injuries in the country at the time of writing. Three people were killed when the wall of the British Embassy in Nepal fell over them; the Embassy has released a press statement regretting the deaths and saying the embassy will continue to do everything possible to help the local community and Nepal. More than 150 houses were damaged all over the country.

People stand next to a collapsed wall, following the powerful earthquake which rattled Nepal. Image by Gagan Thapa, copyright Demotix (18/09/2011).

People stand next to a collapsed wall, following the powerful earthquake which rattled Nepal. Image by Gagan Thapa, copyright Demotix (18/09/2011).

Bloggers - some on the roads, some from their work places and some from home - wrote about their experiences (first-hand in most cases) on their blogs. Social media sites were alive with tweets and Facebook posts on the topic. Nepali Twitter users reported damages and injuries from several places. Phone lines were interrupted due to high call traffic.

Anil P. Ghimire [ne] from AakarPost shares his first experience while on roads of the earthquake in Kathmandu:

सम्भवत पहिलोपटक भुँइचालो को आभास गर्दै थियौँ । सडक को बिचमा उभिएको हुँदा यता र उता कुद्नुपर्ने कुनै जरुरी थिएन । याद आयो अरु केही नभएपनि ट्विट गरिहाल्नुपर्छ । मोवाइलमा ब्राउजर मा ट्विटर नै खुलिरहेको थियो, हतार हतार भुकम्प आएको कुरा ट्विट गरियो, आफू मुनि को जमिन हल्लिनै रहेजस्तो लागिरहेथ्यो । तर त्यो ट्विट प्रकाशित हुन सकेन, जिपीआरएस चलेन।

Possibly, this was the first time we were experiencing the earthquake. As we stood in middle of the road, it wasn’t necessary for us to run somewhere. Soon I remembered, I need to tweet if not anything. I hastily tried tweeting about the earthquake that I was experiencing from twitter on my phone’s browser. The ground was trembling but the tweet couldn’t be published as GPRS was no more available.

Initially the earthquake was reported to be of more than magnitude 6 with its epicenter in Sikkim, India and Kathmandu was reported to be 72 kilometers away (east) from the epicenter. It took more than half an hour to have reports on life injuries as phone services were interrupted due to the high number of calls.

Salokya from Mysansar [ne] shared his experience and facts based on initial reports of the incident:

म बसेको ठाउँमा केही समय हल्लिएर मानिसहरु सडकमा निस्किएका थिए। कम्प्युटर चलाइरहेको म पनि हतारहतार लुगा लगाएर तल झर्दासम्म भूकम्प जारी थियो। हल्लँदै गर्दा मोबाइल बिर्सेर फेरि मोबाइल लिएर सडकमा आउँदा धेरै मानिस बाहिर आइसकेका थिए। श्रीमतीले पनि भूकम्प हुँदै गर्दा फोन गरेर- म त मर्न लागेँ कि क्या हो, यही अन्तिम फोन होला भनेर गरेको भनिन्।

Some people had already escaped from the place I was after trembling for some time. The earthquake was still there when I managed to leave the computer I was using and escape with some clothes on. I returned again to grab my phone and came back to streets to join several others that had escaped from their buildings. My wife rang me then to express her fears of dying and mentioned if this was her last call.
People in Kathmandu rush into the open space of New Road after an earthquake jolted the city. Image by Sunil Sharma, copyright Demotix (18/09/2011).

People in Kathmandu rush into the open space of New Road after an earthquake jolted the city. Image by Sunil Sharma, copyright Demotix (18/09/2011).

Another Nepali Blogger Dinesh Wagle on his journal shares his experience of the earthquake while at work place:

As I was ducking under a table on the 3rd floor of my 6-storey office building, the images humanitarian catastrophe of Haiti earthquake (and those in Pakistan and China) came to my mind. And I also thought about major neighborhoods of Kathmandu- especially Ason area. I thought of making a call to her, tried in fact, AND even posting a tweet as I was experiencing the tremor!

Under the title ‘sikkim quakes and we quiver‘ another blogger Nepali Keti writes:

but, first a bit on today’s event: an earthquake that hit sikkim and sent spine-chilling ripples right to the apple of nepal’s eye (that’d be kathmandu) is something i am little prepared to blog about because i know so little about natural disasters. but, as with every kathmanduite i too have my story.

The Nepal Government has announced a provision of Rs 25,000 immediately to the families of the earthquake victims. Nepal remains an earthquake prone country and the unmanaged urbanisation and lack of proper preparation for calamities like earthquake pose a severe threat to lives and properties in the country.

July 15 2011

Nepal: Budget 2011/12

Nepal Blogs provides a roundup of reactions of Nepali Twitter users on Nepal’s budget for fiscal year 2011/12 which was presented in the parliament today.

August 06 2010

Nepal: Bloggers Meet Online

By Rezwan

Pradeep Kumar Singh informs that Dautari, a Nepali bloggers group is organizing an online meetup for Nepali bloggers on Saturday, the 7th of August, 2010.

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